"Sexual identity usually refers to how individuals think of themselves," Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 133). These identities include, but are not limited to heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual. People come to accept these different identities as their own, but not without learning society's position on each of them. As with all things in life, the presence of nonconformity brings conflict. This paper will discuss these sexual identities, the contemporary issues associated with each, and a personal account of my struggles finding my own sexual identity.
Sexual identity is social. Society defines the different sexual categories and teaches us what characteristics these individuals and groups should have. Society labels these people and their behaviors as normal or abnormal and right or wrong, (Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 133). Through the years, heterosexuality, or an attraction to the opposite sex, has been viewed as right and normal according to society. This is evident in the social institutions that regulate sexuality. First, political institutions make laws stating who can get married and even who can have sex with whom. Families exhibit a portrait of the norm as a man, woman, and children. Religions have rules about many aspects of sexuality. The media and medical community also influence sexuality (Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 175). According to Kimberly Tauches, the view that heterosexuality is the only acceptable form of sexuality is called heteronormativity, (as cited in Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 175).
Generally, humans tend to possess a fear of the unknown. Many times, this fear breeds discrimination and hate. Therefore, when individuals state their attraction to members of the same sex, they are often met with ridicule, rejection, and oppression. This sexual identity is called homosexuality and is considered a deviation from society's paradigm of normal. Homosexuals all over the world claim they are the same as everyone else. They argue that there is nothing abnormal about their lifestyles and are forced to fight for social acceptance. In Homosexuality, Opposing Viewpoints (1999), Erin Blades states, "The search for the gay gene is itself homophobic. Instead of just accepting the fact that some people are straight and some people are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, people are searching for a cause - as if homosexuality is a disease. Nobody's looking for the heterosexual geneâ€¦ Homosexuality isn't considered natural. That's why a cause is being searched for," (p. 48). Erin is right. Society views this sexual identity as deviant and immoral. There have been numerous studies attempting to determine whether or not there is a biological or psychological cause for homosexuality. The implication is that if we can determine its cause, we can fix it. Julie Harren states, "In fact, many researchers hypothesize that a homosexual orientation stems from a combination of biological and environmental factors," (n.d., p. 1). She goes on to say, "While environmental factors may include experiences of sexual abuse or other traumatic events, a common contributor to same-sex attractions is a disruption in the development of gender identity. Gender identity refers to a person's view of his or her own gender; that is, his or her sense of masculinity or femininity. Gender identity is formed through the relationships that a child has with the same-sex parent and same-sex peers," (Harren, n.d., p. 1). Religioustolerance.org states, "Many social and religious conservatives in North America, their organizations and supporters are heavily promoting the restriction of rights and protections for sexual minorities. Their target is at what they call the 'gay agenda' of marriage and other forms of equality," (Homosexuality and Bisexuality, Welcome to the conflict section, para. 2). These people work toward a culture where homosexuals would be denied rights, including marriage; and their sexual identities would be considered chosen behaviors that are abnormal, unnatural, and sinful (Homosexuality and Bisexuality, Welcome to the Conflict section, para. 2). LGBT persons, or lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered individuals, and transsexuals, are working toward a culture where right the opposite is true. They want equal rights, including the right to marry and adopt children. They want to be free from discrimination and oppression. Homosexuals have taken a great deal of criticism because they are accused of not having self-control over their urges to have deviant sex. Most homosexuals contend that this is not what it's all about. Erin Blades (1999) writes, "When I say I'm gay, I'm not just talking about who I sleep with. It's not what I do, it's who I am. It's so much more than sex. Even outside the bedroom my identity as a lesbian colours every aspect of my life. If people weren't so concerned about sex (especially homosexual sex), we wouldn't be hunting for the gay gene," (as cited in Williams, 1999, p. 49).
Another sexual identity that is often considered abnormal through society's eyes is bisexuality. Not only do heterosexuals consider this sexuality deviant, but so do many homosexuals. Paula C. Rodriguez Rust states, "Bisexuals are often told they don't exist, and that they should make up their minds whether they are lesbian/gay or heterosexual," (as cited in Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 166). She stresses the importance of unity and the acceptance of all people. She disagrees with people who say bisexuality doesn't exist. Rust states, "Culturally, the reasons many people feel compelled to protect the 'gay/straight' mindset in which bisexuality does not exist are understandable - they are the self-protective reasons that many people prefer to pretend that things they fear or don't understand don't exist - but it's not a very realistic, respectful, or open-minded way to live in the world," (as cited in Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 170). In this same interview, Paula Rust explains how bisexual people can be celibate or monogamous, just like anyone else. She points out that bisexuality means that one is attracted to either sex. Rust sates, "Bisexuals don't 'need' sex with both men and women; they are simply more open to the possibilities than heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay men who find only one gender sexually interesting," (as cited in Seidman, Fischer, and Meeks, 2006, p. 167).
After many years of struggling with finding my own sexual identity, I have come to the conclusion that I am bisexual. I say this with a great deal of hesitation because I am a Christian who believes that homosexuality is a sin. My first lesbian relationship was right after I got out of high school. We began as just friends. We tried to keep it a secret because where I live; it was definitely not the norm to be gay then. Despite our verbal secrecy, everyone knew. We were always a topic of conversation I've been told. This relationship was very unhealthy. While doing the research for this paper, I found an article about homosexuality that described it perfectly. Julie Harren wrote, "For others, same-sex attractions may not initially be present, but may later develop as a result of entering into a non-sexual friendship which becomes emotionally dependant. An emotionally dependant relationship is one in which two people seek to have their needs met by one another. It is a relationship in which healthy boundaries are not in place. The absence of appropriate emotional boundaries can then lead to a violation of physical boundaries," (n.d., p. 2). After this relationship, I went on to have several heterosexual relationships. But, a few years later, I found myself involved with a female once again. This time, there was no initial friendship. She was openly gay. Many times, people would ask me if I was gay, and I would say no. If you ask my ex today, she will still tell you that I am not. It wasn't about whether she was male or female. I just loved her. Had she been a man, I still would have been in love. This brought division to my finally. They disapproved wholeheartedly. I experienced first-hand the discrimination some homosexuals endure their whole lives. After four years, I could no longer deny the conviction God placed in my heart. After much prayer and hesitation, I ended our relationship. I cried for weeks. Actually, I still occasionally cry and long to be back with her. It took a great deal of time to really let go of 'us.' Some days, I am not so sure I have completely. We are still friends. I still love her very much. I do not think God wants me to be with her - or any other woman, for that matter. I tried to wait and give my heart time to heal before dating anyone else. Two years later, I am trying it again. I am currently in a relationship with a man. But, I will not deny the attraction I still have for women. Just the other day, I entered a department store and looked over at the service desk. There was a girl with short, spiked hair. I noticed her tattoo sticking out from below her shirt sleeve on her right arm and her pierced lip. I was immediately attracted. Although I believe it to be a sin, I am certain of how I feel. The best I can do is not act on these thoughts and feelings. This is my toughest battle in life. I still catch myself daydreaming of a life with my ex-girlfriend. I am not sure if this will ever go away. I even get angry, wishing I didn't truly believe what it says in The Bible. But, I believe my God rewards obedience, so I want to follow His direction now. I hope he forgives me. I have no condemnation for others who have not chosen the same path I have. We are all different, and I am perfectly okay with that now. In writing this paper and learning about how others have identified themselves as bisexual despite being in a heterosexual relationship, I have finally accepted this as my sexual identity. I must admit, although I've never been able to find the words to describe it as well as these scholars have, while reading their thoughts and opinions, I feel a new sense of self-acceptance. I do not know what my future holds, but I realize I am not alone. Although several different sexual identities exist, finding your own is a very personal and at times, difficult part of life. I am glad that I have found mine. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.